Hyundai Santa Fe

Our Santa Fe has proven a bit of a pain after dodgy seat controls forced us to adopt some unusual positions behind the wheel. But otherwise, the 4x4 has been a big hit

  • SEVEN-SEAT CAPACITY: Even though they come at a £1,100 premium, the two extra chairs in the boot give a useful extra dimension. With both down, the boot is huge, and putting up only one still leaves a good load area. <BR><BR>SAT-NAV: It’s not popular with everyone, but the Smartnav’s spoken command means I don’t have to take my eyes off the road. Instead, I simply press a button and speak to an operator.
  • FIT AND FINISH: The leather seats are showing their age, while the carpet is a little worn and the mats are curling up at the edges. Yes it’s the sign of a hard-working car, but after less than 30,000 miles...? <BR><BR>GEARBOX: I have no complaints about the feel of the five-speeder, but when I’m on the motorway, I can’t help wishing that the car could be given an extra cog. It would bring the revs down further on a cruise, improving economy and noise levels at a stroke.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good for you – because I haven’t been. In fact, I have been distinctly uncomfortable since the electric driver’s seat on our long-term Santa Fe failed. Or at least, the switch controlling it did – and without that, the back wouldn’t move into a suitable position for me to drive. It would go down, yet not come up. Tricky if you’re expected to travel home virtually lying on the floor!

I didn’t, of course, but only because I got out of the car and fiddled around with the switch until it co-operated. Yet it took some doing – and the back is still not in exactly the right place.

Then, bizarrely, the 60/40 split/folding rear bench jammed, too, with the larger portion refusing to budge. It felt as if the cable from the handle had come away from its locking hook hidden in the bowels of the chair. So I got on to Hyundai dealer Kingsley Garage in Bedford, and arranged an urgent repair for both seating scenarios.

I had to wait a few days before the model could be seen, and soon got frustrated at not being able to carry large objects such as my mountain bike. Very annoying, considering virtually everyone who has used the Hyundai has praised its space and load-carrying ability.

So I was glad to drop the car off and leave the mechanics to it. An hour later, they rang to tell me the rear bench had been an easy fix – simply by reconnecting the cable – but the front seat was a problem. The switch was on back order.

“Couldn’t you have ordered it last week?” I asked. “I told you I thought it was the switch.” But the workshop manager replied: “No, because if it turned out not to be, we wouldn’t have been able to return it.” I have the car back until the part arrives, and surprise – the seat has started working again, although it’s hit and miss. One good point, though: neither repair will cost me a penny, thanks to Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty.

Seating aside, the Santa Fe is a popular all-rounder. It looks smart, feels good to drive, and – at 28,000 miles – the 2.2-litre diesel sounds as fresh as ever, while the gearbox is the strong, silent type.

Also, with a 500-mile range and economy approaching 35mpg, I’m not filling up every 10 minutes. Teenagers in the back rows have taken full advantage of the excellent roof-mounted DVD player, and I’ve been happy with the multi-disc CD set-up. It’s all sitting very nicely for the Hyundai – if not completely comfortably!

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